Question - The wood floor in my old garage is deteriorating; a bit of decay on the top in spots. How can I fill those spots to stop the decay? Tom Fallon, Malden, Mass.
Answer - If the wood floor is 2(MUL)4s or 2(MUL)6s or similar boards 11/2 inches thick and the decayed areas are shallow (say 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep), scrape off the decay to fresh, sound wood and apply bleach on the spots. The bleach will kill any fungus that is causing the decay, and you should be all set for years to come. If the spots are deeper than 1/4 inch or so, dig them out to fresh wood, apply bleach, and fill the depressions with an epoxy wood rot filler.
If the boards are only 3/4 inch thick, and the spots are shallow, you can do as above. But if the spots are deeper, if you try digging out the decay and filling the spots with wood rot filler, you run the risk of weakening the boards. In that case, replace the spotty boards. Keep the garage dry.
Question - My aluminum storm door won't shut. Is there a way I can fix it so it will close? Sherrie Weinstein, Needham, Mass.
Answer - Check the hinges; if they are loose, drive in the screws; if the screws don't tighten, insert slivers of wood in the holes so they will tighten. Or, buy Mr. Grip strips, lengths of barbed aluminum that take the place of the wood slivers.
If the hinges are tight, it may be that the door has racked - gotten out of square. If so, install a steel rod from the top corner to the opposite bottom corner, with a turnbuckle in the middle for tightening. Tighten the rod to get the door square.
The storm door is usually set in an aluminum jamb screwed to the wood frame opening. The wood frame swells when it absorbs moisture, and can cause the door to jam. This usually happens in summer when the humidity is high and the wood absorbs it. If that is the case, remove the aluminum jamb and plane down one or both sides of the wood opening.
Question - I need more insulation in my attic floor, to try to keep ice dams from forming. There is loose, poured-in fiberglass between the joists now, but no vapor barrier. Should I add insulation on top of the existing material and be content with no vapor barrier, or should I remove the material and put in a vapor barrier before putting in more insulation? It would be an awful job to remove what's there now. Chris Heyer, Norfolk, Mass.
Answer - While insulation always does some good in saving heat (and keeping the attic cold, the best way to prevent ice dams), a vapor barrier with insulation will save even more heat, because it is an air stop, and when something stops the passage of air from house to attic, it also stops the loss of heat. But a vapor barrier on an attic floor has always been controversial, and some installers do not use a vapor barrier because they fear that such a barrier would make the house too tight. In an old house, the addition of a vapor barrier on the attic floor is unlikely to make it too tight, because air escapes through other places.
The best you can do is remove the insulation, save it for future use or throw it away, apply a polyethylene vapor barrier and pour in insulation to the tops of the joists. Or, install fiberglass with a paper or foil backing (that's the vapor barrier) down.
In either case, now you can put 6-inch unbacked fiberglass on top of the insulation at right angles to the joists.
Finally, do not put insulation in the roof overhang (the soffit), and be sure to ventilate the attic ridge vent to keep the attic cold.
Or course, you can add insulation to the existing insulation and ignore the absence of vapor barrier, but the job will not be as effective.
Question - I painted a wood fence that was originally stained and repainted. Now everything is peeling. What can I do? Mary Ellen Karin, Byfield, Mass.
Answer - Scrape and sand as much as possible and apply two coats of a solid latex stain. This could peel, too, but it's the ony way you will get white, which is what you said you want. If you can stand a light gray fence, scrape and sand all the old paint and stain off, and apply one coat of a semitransparent stain. It won't peel.